Peter Brown of Meadowlark Designs on Space-Conscious Craftsmanship
Following the death of his father 32 years ago, Peter Brown set aside a dream career in furniture design to take over his father’s automobile dealership. Now retired from the family business, he has returned to his original passion—designing and crafting artisan-inspired furniture. His new woodworking company, Meadowlark Designs, crafts custom furniture pieces that reflect his artistry and focus on traditional joinery. Read on for his interview with MH+D Inside Out.
Q. You ran an automobile dealership for 22 years. How did you get back into design?
A. Well, design has always been in my life. It was like a magnet pulling me. I found myself designing everything from dealership renovations to home improvements and a wooden boat restoration, and much more. If I see a perfectly good wheel, I think, “how might I reinvent this?” When my wife and I purchased a beautiful property out in Lyman, I designed the house we built, and then designed and built the timber-framed barn that is now my studio and workshop. It was natural to outfit my shop and start building my designs. It occurs to me every single day that this is where I belonged my whole life. It feels so good.
Q. Why were you inspired to build the barn?
A. Building a true timber-framed structure using old-school techniques has been a dream of mine for some time. I’ve always been fascinated by how some wooden structures have survived so well. Wood needs to move and breath to survive. I use hand joinery because once you constrain wood with a lot of metal, it’s just in a steady state of decay. In everything from my barn to my furniture craftsmanship, I work to keep those tissues alive in the wood so that it can last for many generations to come.
Q. What is your creative process like?
A. It can be pretty messy sometimes. A lot more gets designed than gets built. As with any art, inspiration happens when I let it. But the context that my work will occupy plays a great role, too; it provides essential guidelines for what to create. It’s really important to see and understand the space that one of my designs will inhabit, so that I can see how my furniture will relate to everything that surrounds it.
Q. What do you love about design? What makes you want to keep doing this?
A. The first thing that came to mind is swinging open my barn doors in the morning and taking a big old breath of natural wood and oils. I love the sense of possibilities. However, good design also requires input, feedback, and collaboration with other stakeholders, and it takes the environment into account. That’s the best—when I get to sit down with prospective clients and work with them to collectively create an idea, and bring it to fruition. When I see my work fitting seamlessly into someone’s space and life, it’s very rewarding. It makes me euphoric to know the client feels the same way, and that’s why I keep doing it.